Chatbots Making Inroads into the Hourly Workforce
The newest advances in talent technology are being deployed to find hourly workers for hard-to-fill positions.
By Andrew R. McIlvaine
With the number of unfilled job openings at an all-time high, companies are struggling like never before to find qualified workers for full- and part-time positions. At the same time, new advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning offer tantalizing possibilities for making it easier than ever to find and hire talent. Companies such as YaSabe Inc. want to make the latter scenario a reality, notably in the area of hourly recruitment, where a scarcity of workers and new immigration restrictions are straining the ability of hotels, restaurants and other retail establishments to staff up for the critical summer season.
"Effective hourly recruitment is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve because of time and cost constraints," says Azim Tejani, co-founder and executive vice president at YaSabe.com, a Sterling, Va.-based digital media company that specializes in outreach to the Hispanic community.
YaSabe has recently introduced JobBot, a platform that uses A.I.-based chatbots to screen and interact with candidates for hourly positions and schedule job interviews for them at participating companies.
When you're searching for qualified workers to fill hourly positions, time is of the essence, says Tejani -- and many organizations take too much time to decide on candidates, which means they end up short-changing themselves, he adds.
"Most of our clients were taking more than a day to get back to applicants, who ended up finding another job within 15 hours," he says.
YaSabe made its name working with employers such as hospitals that needed to hire large numbers of hourly workers. It built a job board that targeted Hispanic audiences via channels such as Facebook and Google. Business grew quickly, says Tejani, but problems cropped up as well.
"We'd get complaints about applicants who wrote the right things on the application, but when it came to the phone screen it turned out they didn't have a license or were unqualified in other ways," he says. "We also had a problem with no-shows."
Approximately 18 months ago, YaSabe started using text-based automated systems to pre-screen candidates, verify their legal status and "shake out the unqualified," says Tejani, whose background is in technology. "We'd take someone who called about an open position and move them into a chat conversation. We started using SMS all the way to interview scheduling -- if the applicant was qualified, we'd automatically schedule an interview for them to come in and talk."
Eventually Tejani and his colleagues at YaSabe created JobBot, which uses bilingual chatbots to engage with and screen applicants via their mobile phones and automatically schedule interviews for the ones who are qualified. This has improved the quality of candidates and has sharply cut down on the number of no-shows, he says, adding that approximately 25 percent of applicants have been disqualified by the chatbots,
YaSabe's "big break" came last year, when one of its largest customers asked it to process all of its applicants who were coming in via job-search engine Indeed.com, says Tejani.
The company's clients are primarily in the services industry (landscaping, maintenance, etc.) as well as the retail and hospital sector, he says.
"We find that applicants prefer the chatbots to being chased by employers via the phone," says Tejani.